錦 (nishiki): Brocade

I’m familiar with the meaning of many of the popular kanji used in wrestlers’ shikona. I’ve had a post about kiku/giku before, and in the future, between tournaments, I’m going to try to post a bit more about them – mostly to help myself study Japanese. I chose to post about 錦 because I really had no idea what that meant. The best part was that after I looked it up, I still had no idea what the English word (brocade) meant. So, I had to go to Wikipedia to get my answer.

Basically, if you clicked the link, you’d see it’s a loom-woven fabric. Wikipedia talks about how they were generally luxury items but I’m still a bit puzzled as to why wrestlers like Aminishiki, Homarenishiki, or Kaonishiki would use it in their shikona. Is it a reference to the keshou mawashi they wear for the ring entering ceremony? Those are made of fabric, heavily decorated, often with their sponsors’ logos or symbols from the cities or countries that they come from.

旧安田庭園
旧安田庭園

When I looked more into the Japanese term, it’s clear the Japanese meaning is more complex beyond the literal translation. There are references to animals and kaleidoscopes and artwork that incorporate the term.

But, for perhaps the best example, we’re all familiar with Koi fish particularly because they’re commonly found in Japanese gardens. I’ve got a picture here which I took at a beautiful garden a block away from Kokugikan (the main sumo venue in Tokyo). There are koi in this pond and many are 錦鯉(nishikigoi) which are prized for their decorative colors – gold, red, black, white. I’m sure you know the ones I’m talking about.

Clicking the picture will take you to a Google Map of where you can find the garden. Like I said, it’s very close to the Kokugikan (you can actually see its distinctive roof behind the trees) so if you’re in the area for a tournament, this is a great place to visit. I walked around here for a few hours, taking pictures and just enjoying the peace and quiet. Anyway, there are fish and turtles in the pond and cranes and ducks. It seems a lot of people bring their lunch or bento and eat while pausing to feed the ducks. There’s a shrine in the back, over a little red bridge, behind the trees.

Anyway, this context certainly gives more of an idea of why the term is incorporated into shikona. It still could be something as straightforward and literal as their keshomawashi but Aminishiki, in particular, seems like a rather colorful character. That may be stretching the meaning a bit too far but to me it makes a bit more sense and will at least help me remember the meaning of the kanji.

*Update 1 – (10/4/2015)*
How could I neglect to mention the most famous modern nishikiKONISHIKI (小錦)? Maybe a future post will be about the kanji for 馬鹿 because sometimes I can forget the most obvious stuff that’s staring me in the face. (For some reason horse and deer equals idiot.)

One thought on “錦 (nishiki): Brocade


  1. […] Traditional Japanese instruments don’t get much attention in popular music. The koto is a great sounding instrument and is relevant to sumo because the kanji for Koto is used in the shikona of several wrestlers, generally from the Sadogatake heya, headed by former Kotonowaka (琴ノ若), including two ozeki – Kotoshogiku (琴奨菊) and Kotooshu (琴欧州). The heya was established in 1955 by Kotonishiki (琴錦). Please check out my brief post about the kanji for nishiki, 錦, from a few days ago. […]

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